Postcard from Zaragoza, Spain: Cheerful toasts echo around plazas

Above: Well-muddled mojitos at Gran Cafe Estrella de Cuba

Gathering for lively conversation over cocktails seems important in Zaragoza, and not just for young late-night partiers spilling out of tapas bars crowding the narrow streets of the city’s famed El Tubo district. People like us, canosos (gray-haired), jockey for hard-to-score tables on neighborhood plazas with college students and families with baby carriages to enjoy beer, wine and gin and tonics at all times of day – our kind of place.

We were there in the late spring, and, with COVID restrictions just loosening up, the few tourists around barely had a chance of winning the competition for outdoor spots. Maybe we were witnessing the first exuberant gatherings locals were having with friends and family they had missed seeing, their first opportunities to finally escape their apartments after the long lockdown, their first reunification with vices given up for Lent. Perhaps this is simply the year-round pursuit of happiness in Zaragoza – a good way to live.

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Postcard from Zaragoza, Spain: Competing patron saints and cathedrals, plus some miracles

Above: La Basilica de Nuestra Senora del Pilar is on the left while La Seo de Zaragoza anchors the far end of the plaza.

Although conquered by The Battler, Alfonso I (1073-1134), the Moorish rulers of Zaragoza left rich architectural contributions in their wake. The main mosque was an impressive one, so The Battler opted for adaptive reuse, making alterations for Christian purposes and consecrating the new church in the name of San Salvador in 1121.

The Battler’s predilection for war unfortunately extended to his life with his wife, with no heirs produced from the contentious marriage. Leapfrogging over the resulting confusion following Alfonso I’s death, Ramon Berenguer (1114-1162), the Count of Barcelona, was betrothed to one-year-old Petronilla of Aragon (1136-1173) in 1137. The toddler’s father, known as Ramiro II (1086-1157), transferred the rule of the kingdom of Aragon to his new son-in-law so he could retire to a normally peaceful monastic life. As this post is not really about Ramiro the Monk, we will not dwell on his priestly qualifications that include the legend of his beheading of a dozen nobles who opposed him and using the head of their leader as the clapper for the bell of Huesca.

Demonstrating his dedication to the marriage-acquired territory of Aragon, Ramon had much of Zaragoza’s mosque/Catholic church razed to begin construction of a Romanesque replacement in 1140. This church became the home for coronations of Aragonese kings, and, with the papal appointment of an archbishop of Zaragoza in 1318, a cathedral.

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A season when cemeteries reunite the living and the dead

Above: No rearranging of the surroundings would be needed to film a horror movie in the dark and cavernous Cimitero delle Fontanelle in Naples, Italy.

It’s not surprising that a writer who would include Haunting the Graveyard as part of a book title is drawn to cemeteries. A few random headstones can reveal stories about individuals and entire communities.

Someone in the family demonstrates great patience with sating my taphophilia wherever we travel. Naturally, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are among my favorite times to do so. Posts in this blog are filled with the resulting photos, and the links below will take you to a few from our past travels. So many graveyards from which to choose….

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